Dec. 6th, 2005 @ 02:21 pm
The bar was, for lack of a more genteel word, frightening. The moon they'd stopped on was just big enough to afford Inara some business, but just small enough that the local color was still in force wherever you looked. Local color, which in this case meant local thugs, who filled the seats at the bar and the few tables around it and looked askance at the strangers in their midst. It was her own fault, she supposed, for meeting them here instead of going back to Serenity, but she didn't think she really merited the amount of attention she was getting from the people in the bar.
"How do I always end up in these places with you?" she hissed to Mal as another dirty old cowboy whistled in her direction, taking his arm and steering him away. "And why do you never warn me it's going to be like this before I show up?" Jayne glanced up from the pool shot he was about to take and cackled. "I didn't ask you," she said, going to stand next to Kaylee.
Mal shrugged, nodding at the offending cowboy and allowing (or, at least, giving the pretense of allowing) Inara to lead him to the safe side of the table, though Mal doubted any side that housed both Jayne and a pool cue could be reasonably deemed "safe." He smiled a thin smile as he extracted his arm from her hold (he'd have called it a death grip if he'd been able to get away with it with all of his limbs and necessary parts in tact) and stepped to the side to give Jayne the room he needed to shoot.
"Kaylee doesn't seem to have a problem with it, do you Kaylee?" he said amenably, smiling wider when a bright smile lit up the other's face. He looked back to Inara. "Guess you and the doc will just have to mingle with us common folk this time around," he said placatingly, and steeled himself for however she would choose to unleash her anger upon him.
Kaylee grinned at the captain as she folded her arm through Inara's. "Inara don't mind us, Captain, it's them that look like they haven't seen a bath this side of last summer she's tryin' to get away from." She took a sip of her drink, which was frozen and pink, and offered the straw to Inara with another smile.
"You're not wrong," Inara returned with a grin, taking a sip and nodding her approval, "Except that sometimes I wonder about our present company as well." She raised an eyebrow at Jayne, who looked highly offended.
"Hey. I bathe." He sniffed loudly and took a swig of his beer.
Mal shrugged and folded his arms. This was not an argument he fancied getting into the middle of. He could imagine Jayne's next retort, something along the lines of Once a week is enough for anyone
and smirked, cocking his head to the side to keep an eye on the aforementioned very dirty cowboy. He caught Zoe's eye. She nodded. For the time being everything looked to be in order, nothing out of sorts, nothing looking like that would change.
For once (not really once, he wasn't that sadistic) he hoped that nothing out of the ordinary would happen. More difficult to guard three than just your own back, after all.
Zoe patted Wash on the shoulder as he groaned. They were two balls behind; who knew Kaylee was such a good hand at pool? Aim, draw back, shoot, and her ball just barely made it into the pocket.
"Yeah, ain't your guy a bit late?" Kaylee added, walking around the table and assessing her next shot. She gave Simon a quick smile as she passed him, and looked back to Mal for the answer to her question.
Mal shook his head, shifting his weight onto one foot. "I was considering the option that he may be shy of strangers," he said, half-sarcastically, and scanned the room again. Of course, if he'd known that most of the crew had planned to disembark with he, Zoe, and Jayne he would have been able to make other arrangements. But as that had come as a surprise he was left with limited options.
He hoped that if his contact were shy of strangers that timidity wouldn't come in the form of snipers up on the balcony. They'd be able to see them well-enough, but virtually unable to react. You're being paranoid,
he thought, and shook his head to clear it.
Kaylee jumped at Jayne's whack and turned quickly, trying to process and answer all at once. "Show him, how, what? Oh, I won't..." she watched him go with a concerned expression, then turned to Simon with her bravest game face. "Come on, it's easy." I hope he's not going to do anything stupid and get himself hurt...
Inara laughed at Simon's expression when Jayne handed him the cue. He looked at like it was a cattle prod, or a poisonous snake. "It's not as hard as it looks," she called, sneaking another sip of Kaylee's drink.
Mal laughed, on the inside. As entertaining as this might get to watch, he wondered if there might be a way to work the situation to their benefit. He lifted his eyes to Zoe, annoyed that they had all chosen today (of all days!) to all be more friendly than would benefit him in this situation. Unless it could work to their advantage. He beckoned Zoe with an eyebrow. It was worth a shot, he figured, and if Wash and Inara would take the hint it just might work.
"Your shot, husband," she said as she caught the captain's eye. "Our odds just evened out considerably, so try and score." Going round the table and standing with her head close to Mal's, she listened to his plan.
"Sir, you want me to let you punch me?" she said, giving him her doubtful face.
Mal uncrossed his arms and rubbed the back of his neck, trying to play it cool but annoyed. "Trying to figure it out; shouldn't need violence." He paused, long enough, then stepped back, his mouth falling open and eyebrows shooting up.
"Look," he said in a raised voice, "maybe you should be taking up these marital issues with your better half; just because Kaylee's gotten what you wanted doesn't make her a jinu
," he said, half-laughing, voice dripping with sardonic, almost comical disgust. "As my first mate I'd think you'd be able to put aside--"
"What I wanted?" she interrupted, the incredulity clear in her tone and on her face. "You've got to be kidding yourself, Captain
, if you think I say this out of jealousy."
She turned and gave Kaylee a spiteful glance. "The girl's come on to my man
half a dozen times already-- she's playing you for a fool. And if I say she's a suo xi jinu
, it's only the damn truth."
Wash dropped his pool cue and stared dumbfounded between his wife, the captain, and Kaylee. "What is this crazy talk?" he blurted out, before his better sense kicked in and told him to keep his mouth shut. He ducked under the table to retrieve the stick, thinking he might be better off staying there.
Thankfully Kaylee overrode him, taking two steps and putting herself between the arguing pair and the trio of watchers. "What is this gou shi
? You wanna call me that to my face, Zoe?" She hoped she wouldn't laugh and give up the game; that had happened before.
Mal looked visibly uncomfortable. He shook his head and glanced around the bar, with a look that said Gosh, I really never meant to cause this sort of commotion,
and tried to laugh it through. "Look, I don't want either of you to get upset about this, it's really not--"
Realizing his words had absolutely no effect he resorted to stepping between the two women-- or he attempted to, at least.
"Sure I will," said Zoe, turning toward Kaylee with her hands on her hips. "I said you're a suo xi jinu
who's laid herself out for the Captain and my husband and the 'verse knows who else, and I'm only getting warmed up."
"You bu hui hen de po fu
!" Kaylee shrieked, balling her hands into fists. Don't giggle, don't giggle,
she repeated in her head.
"Oh, you gonna call me
names? Come here, you little--" and she made a grab for Kaylee, who ducked beneath her arm and dashed for the door, shouting barely intelligible insults after her.